Story for the Day: Mixed Chocolates
The café, though a great favourite with the Lucentian moneylenders and tradesmen in the Frewyn capital, was also a favourite with Soledhan. Every day after the first half of his lesson had done and his parents had gained their first repose from training, he made it his object to beg them to go thither. He must look at the display of cakes, he must watch the churning vats of various chocolate vintages, he must try everything that was new, and Rautu must agree with him. He could not agree with Soledhan’s dancing to the Lucentian music and stealing his chocolate fondant with excuses of practicing his powers of stealth, but all could be borne while Hathanta was by to speak soft words of discipline while Rautu could be left to finish his fondant in peace.
The moment the party returned from the Northern Continent, Soledhan burst forth with entreaties to visit his favourite place, and the commander thought it advisable to oblige him if only to quiet him and to appease their Lucentian visitors. She was aware that not all of them would favour eating a Frewyn diet: Arkastino, she had little doubt, could always eat and could do so very well in the kingdom with its roasted meats and smoked cheeses; Nidello could enjoy the sourdough breads and garlic infusions; but Ladrei could have none of it. The guildlord always made a point of bringing his own items everywhere he went, for he declared that even an item of low quality in Lucentia was better than most in the rest of the world. Provisions from the princedom could do no wrong by him, despite some of Lucentia’s more unbearable cuisine. Eating at Alasdair’s table would be barely tolerable, as Alasdair did his utmost to please and provide for any guest that came to the castle, but where there was an authentic Lucentian establishment, there he would go.
The visit was agreed to, Soledhan and Ladrei were much pleased, and the moment they entered the establishment, fresh fruits were brought for the guildlord, dark chocolate procured for the Den Asaan, and a cart of Lucentian pancakes was brought for the party’s perusal. Many items were descried and considered for immediate consumption, and due to the company the commander kept, every specialty item that must be ordered and given time to be prepared was done directly. A commander and a Haanta priest who ate nothing might be kept waiting, but a ravening giant, the most infamous guildlord in all Lucentia and his two guardsmen must be made to sit with empty plates for long.
The food was soon arrived, and with everything being to the immediate satisfaction of each, the attendant wheeled the cart away and informed the kitchen that the next round must be prepared. Soledhan was well settled with his thin pancakes, Arkastino and Rautu shared the pleasures of their various chocolate cakes, Nidello and Ladrei enjoyed their confits and coulis, Hathanta was well with his water while the commander was more than content with her mere coffee, for the sea could never agree with her, and therefore when she came ashore, she did her utmost not to eat anything until she could be certain that the ground was stable and her stomach was still.
There was, however, a small bowl of complimentary chocolates that came to the table to accompany the commander’s order. They were rather small and round chocolate, dark and bittersweet smelling. As the attendant had hastened away from the party without a word, only inclining his head to Ladrei as he left, everyone was left to guess what was inside the chocolates, if there was anything within them before. That they were Marridonian was plain, but the general consensus about the table was that if they had come with coffee, there must be something related with such a drink within to balance the savour of both. Arkastino had them for covered coffee beans, Nidello for currants, Soledhan for salted caramels, but there was only one method of discovery that would make them certain and the Den Asaan bravely engaged to eat them.
He had not taken one into his mouth when Ladrei gave him an impish smile. Ladrei watched the giant first delight in the initial flavour of the chocolate, masticate with triumph, and then with conscious gradations begin to grow disgusted. His pleased countenance faded into one of censure, his mouth curled into a flout of disgust, and his eyes flared with horror.
“What is it, Iimon Ghaala?” the commander asked, hardly bothering to mask her amusement. “Do tell me that it’s white chocolate so that I may laugh.” She sipped her coffee and simpered as her mate claimed the napkin beside him to empty his mouth.
Rautu grunted in disdain to see that amidst the smatterings of remaining chocolate were blueberries. He scowled, plucked his mate’s cup from her hand, and drank the remainder of her coffee to rid his mouth of the foul and sour taste.
Ladrei was all sanguine mirth. He held his sides and laughed heartily at the giant’s misfortune. “A shame you ate most of them and didn’t leave any for me,” he simpered, wiping the tears from his sparkling green eyes. “Those are considered a delicacy in Lucentia, when the chocolate is more refined, of course.”
“You knew what these were and said nothing?” Rautu growled, crushing the napkin in his hand, his arm quaking as his fury was tried.
“And ruin this moment?” Ladrei shook his head and began to laugh again. “Ah, my smiling friend, you can always find ways of making me laugh.”
Rautu had done. To be deceived into eating so objectionable a fruit was one thing, but to have it masked in chocolate and to be duped and mocked by one who would call himself an intimate friend was insupportable. He roused from his seat and gripped the hilt of his sword, but was obliged to sit again when the attendant returned with another coffee and another bowl of suspicious chocolate. He spied it charily, his hand reached out to touch it, but no, he would not allow himself to be deceived again. The chocolate was there, however, gawping at him from the table, and though he endeavored to ignore it, his sensibilities and weakness for the article compelled him to look. He must inspect it, he must be more prudent in this instance, and though he did lift a chocolate to investigate, his wary actions did not escape the laughing regard of Ladrei or the snide assertion of his mate.
“Due recompense for taking what was mine,” the commander smirked, taking her cup in hand.
“They were complimentary, woman,” Rautu argued.
“And yet still mine. Simply because something is given to me for free does not mean it is yours.”
The giant humphed and was determined to discover the inside of the chocolate without tasting it or ruining its molding. Soon, however, Rautu’s horror increased, for upon cutting open one or two of the chocolates, they were all found to have differing centers. One held a candied fruit, another a coffee bean, and another coconut shavings, yet they all appeared to be the same. Feelings of frustration rushed on the Den Asaan, and he pushed the bowl of chocolates away, resolved not to eat any if only to spare him the travesties on Ladrei’s side and the remonstrates on his mate’s.